Monday, March 5, 2012

Remember the Eyes

Yoga comes in all shapes and sizes. To some, it is purely asana focused. To others, it is nothing but a prescription for meditation. And there are all sorts of combinations of yoga with something else (you know, yoga and wine or yoga and chocolate). Most days I wonder if the word yoga really even means anything to anyone anymore.

Why do I bring this up? Because today I want to talk about yoga of the eyes.

First let me explain why. The modern world requires many of us to spend hours per day at a computer, and there is little question that today's world is full of people living in chronic stress. There is one more common characteristic between stress and computers; they both have the ability to give us a really bad headache. Computers force us to squint, and the glare tires out our eyes causing the muscles around the eyes to tighten, which over time leads to a headache. I do not think I need to talk about how stress leads to headaches. Something tells me you understand.

One of my favorite things about yoga is that it has taught me to understand muscles in ways I never deemed possible. In some ways, the most exciting of those lessons have been about the muscles around the eyes. These are not muscles we go to the gym to work out. They are not going to make or break our health goals. But they may just hold the key to those afternoon (and sometimes morning) headaches.

The best part about this is that you can do it anywhere . . . and I mean anywhere. Now that I am spending a lot less time at a desk, but a lot more time waiting at court or in a car, I am looking for things to do anywhere. All it takes is 60-90 seconds (or longer, if you want) and a willingness to close your lids and move your eyes. Really. For the record, I am not advocating closing your eyes while driving, but just as you get into the car, or just before getting out, are perfect opportunities to take a few moments to relax, and releasing the eye muscles after using them for such concentration, is a perfect relaxation tool.

So what is eye yoga? Close your eyes (after reading the rest of the paragraph). Look straight ahead, and consciously allow the eyes to fall to the back of the eye socket. Even if they do not physically move, imagine they are, and notice the muscles around the eyes beginning to relax. Then move the eyes as far to the right as they will go, and hold for 5-10 seconds. Then repeat to the left, to the bottom, and to the top. Then look in all four diagonals for 5-10 seconds. Then roll the eyes in a circle first one direction and then the other 5-10 times. Then refocus the eyes to the center and relax the muscles around them once again. Then smile. Just because.

We hold tension in so many places in our bodies, but the eyes take one of the most thorough beatings of any part of our body during the day. Why is it, then, that we almost universally ignore the eyes as a source of potential relaxation? What have you done for your eyes today?


© Rebecca Stahl 2012, all rights reserved.

Remember the Eyes is part of the series At the Desk, which focuses on practical tips from the yoga world (and other interesting finds) to help those of us stuck at the desk all day long. If you are interested in other tips, click the label “At the Desk,” and if you have any specific questions you would like to see discussed, send them my way.


  1. I have a feeling that this would be exceptional advice to law school students :)

    1. I could see them benefitting from it for sure. A few people mentioned that to me on facebook as well. :)